The Writer’s Center and Poet Lore welcome poets Rebecca Kaiser Gibson (Girl as Birch) and Richard Smith (Not a Soul but Us) to celebrate their newest poetry collections.
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Rebecca Kaiser Gibson is the author of poetry collections Girl as Birch (Bauhan Publishing, forthcoming 2022), OPINEL (Bauhan Publishing, 2015), and two chapbooks Admit the Peacock and Inside the Exhibition. Her poems appear in Agni, Antigonish, Barrow Street (forthcoming), Field, Green Mountains Review, The Greensboro Review, The Harvard Review, Interim: Journal of Poetry and Poetics (forthcoming), Massachusetts Review, The Ocean State Review, Salamander, Slate, Taos Journal of Poetry, Tupelo Quarterly, VerseDaily, and Passengers (forthcoming), among others.
Richard Smith began life as an English major. After graduating from Princeton, he worked in publishing for twelve years, then retooled as a clinical psychologist, earning his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He maintains a private practice in Washington, D.C. and serves on the core faculty of the Center for Existential Studies and Psychotherapy, for which he gives talks on plays and novels (ranging from Sophocles to Toni Morrison) reexamined through the lens of an existential sensibility. He and his partner live in Washington with their two dogs, who inspired the sonnet-writing that led to this book.
About the Books
In Girl as Birch, Gibson mimics the flexible (adaptable? too pliant? healthily, if secretly, resilient, then, finally, aligned) motion of a birch in strong wind, as it relates to the options seemingly available to her, growing up as a girl. The poems imitate in form the experiences they evoke. The leitmotifs of red, birches, mirrors, walls enclosing gardens, labyrinths as metaphors for constraint, recur throughout the book. Without being a manifesto, Girl as Birch explores female gender roles with both pliant and uprising imagery and action. Restriction and rebellion, silence and speech, appearance and artifice, passion and repression, the past and being present, buffet and embolden the speaker of these poems. The elastic and varied syntax, pace, music, and the use of rhetoric and wit express deft self-examination. The book moves from serial impressionistic poems of early childhood to discrete lyric poems of memory and experience and on to a sense of emotional, social, spiritual evolution, not resolution.
Richard Smith’s Not a Soul but Us won the 2021 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, sponsored by Bauhan Publishing. The book is a verse narrative set in a remote village in medieval England, where the bubonic plague pandemic wipes out half the population. Left behind are a twelve-year-old shepherd boy and his dog, who keep their flock alive through a brutal winter—and then must figure out how to reconnect with life as it moves forward. In the words of poet Meg Kearney, judge of the 2021 May Sarton Prize, the book “drives to the heart of what we humans are capable of when boiled down to our very core in the struggle to survive—and how, in more ways than one, it’s not our intelligence or our resiliency but love and the non-human animals that save us. Timely, remarkable, and unforgettable, these eighty-four sonnets are so well crafted that we cease to notice the form, swept away as we are by the current of the story and its song.”